Robert King to Be Next NK Human Rights Special Envoy? (Updated)

So says a reader I trust.  The little I know is that he was a staffer who worked for Rep. Tom Lantos, meaning he probably knows plenty about foreign policy and shares his former boss’s interest in human rights, but may not have much specific Asia expertise.  Here’s a photo of him.

There are three things that I like about King without knowing anything else.  First, he’s not a State Department insider.  Second, he’s not the same person who will serve as Special Envoy on the nuclear negotiations (human rights advocates had feared that the positions would be dual-hatted and that the job of HR special envoy would be swallowed by the nuclear diplomacy).  Third, when I first heard King’s name floated, the suggestion was not packaged with any objections.

If anyone knows anything else, kindly drop a comment or e-mail me.  Thanks.

Update:  The Chosun Ilbo is reporting it.  It sounds like King’s main area of concentration is Europe.


  1. Here’s a similar link from the embassy of Hungary mentioning Dr. King’s meeting with “ruthless persecutor” Nicolae Ceausescu. So I suppose he does at least have some experience in dealing with ruthless people.

    Spelunker has dug even further into the cave of Dr. Robert R. King and found evidence of him being present in the capacity of Democratic Staff Director in at least 3 meetings that discussed North Korea.

    The first was at a 2004 House subcommittee hearing on the disarmament of Libya.
    During this meeting Representative Curt Weldon revealed that he (Weldon) sat in a tent face to face with Colonel Muammar al-Ghadafi and challenged him to reach out to Kim Jong Il in North Korea:

    “My feeling was that Colonel Ghadafi, who had a track record of terrorism, perhaps had a similar type of personality and approach with his country that Kim Jong Il has in North Korea. So I challenged him on that first meeting on that first trip in January to use his efforts to personally reach out to Kim Jong Il; to show him that if he were to take the same steps that Ghadafi was taking in Libya—giving up his weapons of mass destruction, which is our ultimate goal in North Korea—then, in fact, America would respond. And as we have not tried to attempt regime change in Libya, the North Koreans, in fact, could see that we would pursue the same course with the North Koreans.”

    Representative Weldon goes on to talk about his meeting with North Korean officials in 2003:

    Mr. WELDON. I cannot speak for the Republican Caucus, but I can tell you, I also led the only delegation ever into North Korea a year ago in May. I sat across the table from Kim Guy Gwan with, again, three Democrats and two Republicans. We met for 3 days with all of the top leaders of North Korea.

    Dr. Robert R. King also sat in on a 2005 House Committee meeting specifically on North Korea when Tom Lantos discussed his meeting with North Korean officials:

    When I first arrived in Pyongyang, on a bitter January morning, I was handed the proposed schedule for my visit by North Korean Foreign Ministry officials. I read over the proposed schedule, which we subsequently modified dramatically, but the most significant item was a question mark. It was next to the last evening of our proposed visit to North Korea. I asked my North Korean host, ”What does this question mark mean?” And he said, ”Well, we don’t know whether you will reciprocate the dinner that we are planning for you on the first night of your visit.” I laughed, and I told him that Mrs. Lantos and I were very much looking forward to hosting a dinner in honor of our North Korean hosts. And the atmosphere from that moment on became progressively less rigid, more informal, more cordial, and more civilized.

    Christopher Hill also delivered a speech at this meeting.

    In April 2006 Dr. Robert R. King was present as Democratic Staff Director at a Joint Hearing titled “North Korea: Human Rights Update and International Abduction Issues”

    This meeting heralded the inaugural appearance of the Special Envoy for Human Rights in North Korea, a position held at that time by Jay Lefkowitz. This was the first Congressional hearing to ever focus on North Korea’s abduction of foreign citizens and
    there is mention of an American pastor held prisoner in China (Philip June Buck) who ran shelters for North Korean refugees. This is a very long document because it includes testimony from several Korean and Japanese witnesses, but I imagine Dr. King probably sat through it all.


  2. It appears from my preliminary studies that King has written a book entitled “Minorities under Communism” and that he also wrote either a book or an article on the fall of the Romanian government.
    King is a Latter-day Saint and he and his wife once wrote an article on Mormon group cohesion. How much this will effect his human rights view I do not know, but he might be more willing than some to bring up religious issues.
    He has a bachelors degree from BYU and a Ph.D. from the Fletcher School of Tufts University. He apparently was Lantos’ chief-of-staff for 24 years.
    Much of this is gleaned from an LDS Church News article published on Oct 17, 2009, but the two works he wrote that I mentioned are largely based on gueses from what I have turned up in my google search. Robert R. King is not the rarest name, and to make things more complicated, much of the information on him may be filed under Robert King, or maybe even under his full middle name (which I do not know).


  3. An insightful pick for this envoy, I must say – what goes on behind the DPRK’s “iron curtain” is analogous in many ways to eastern europe’s – isn’t it time that we deprive the DPRK regime of the skilled scientists it needs to survive and at the same time provide safe havens for them as well…could this be the underlying basis for the issuance of visas to NK’s nuclear scientists? I’m also curious as to Robert King’s view on the “Helsinki approach” to negotiating with the DPRK regime, given that he is a European expert.